Monday, January 31, 2011

Health Care Reform Unconstitutional? Wait and See

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Gibson noted earlier today that federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has more analysis of the decision here:


Roger Vinson, the second Republican judge to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, has, as expected, ruled against it. More surprising is that he's decided that the presence of the mandate means the rest of the law must be overturned, too, which is an extremely radical step. The full ruling has a very Bush v. Gore feeling, as Vinson concedes that his position is activist in the extreme and a break from the court's usual preference for limited rulings, but says, in effect, that he's going to do it just this once. "This conclusion is reached with full appreciation for the 'normal rule' that reviewing courts should ordinarily refrain from invalidating more than the unconstitutional part of a statute," Vinson writes, "but non-severability is required based on the unique facts of this case and the particular aspects of the Act. This is not a situation that is likely to be repeated." Italics mine.

That puts Vinson on the far right of this debate: Previously, Henry Hudson had ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional but the rest of the law constitutional, and Norman Moon and George Steeh had ruled both the mandate and the rest of the legislation constitutional. So there's currently a 2-2 split: The judges appointed by Democrats think the law constitutional, and the judges appointed by Republicans think the law varying degrees of unconstitutional. Whatever happens to the legislation at the end of the day, the clear level of politicization in the judiciary is getting its day in the sun. Vinison even shouts out to the Boston Tea Party in his decision.

Klein explains why the GOP might come to regret opposing the individual mandate here.

TNR's Jonathan Cohn pokes holes in Vinson's ruling here.

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Update: Helicopter Pilot Pronounced Dead at the Scene

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:32 PM

The Pima County Sheriff's Department confirmed that of the four first reported injured in this morning's helicopter crash, civilian pilot Loren Leonberger was pronounced dead at the scene.

From the Pima County Sheriff's Department:

On January 31, 2011, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s helicopter crashed near Waterman Road and Silverbell Road.

Sadly, Pima County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Pilot Loren Leonberger was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Mr. Leonberger spent his life serving his country flying helicopters for over forty years. In February 1969 he entered the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot from June 1970 thru June 1971 where he achieved the rank of Warrant Officer. Mr. Leonberger served as a pilot in the U.S. Army National Guard from January 1972 thru November 1991. In July 1978, he became an officer and a pilot with the AZ Department of Public Safety where he served for twenty years. In December 1998 he retired from the DPS Air Rescue Unit. Mr. Leonberger became a pilot with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in 1998 where he was employed until he joined the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in November 2008.

Mr. Leonberger leaves behind a wife and twelve siblings.

The three surviving passengers of the crash are at University Medical Center. The full extent of their injuries is unknown. Their names will be released pending notification to the families.

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Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day—With Cats

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:16 PM

It's Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, and what a great way to celebrate—with a cute cat video!

Want more cats and bubble wrap videos? Of course you do, so go here.

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Obamacare Takes a Hit in Court

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Politico:


A federal judge on Monday ruled that the entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional, the most striking blow yet to President Obama’s signature domestic legislation.

But Judge Roger Vinson stopped short of ordering the federal government to stop enacting the law.

Vinson ruled that the law’s requirement that nearly all Americans purchase health insurance coverage is not within the legal bounds of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause.

Because the provision is instrumental to the rest of the law, he declared the entire law unconstitutional. The law also doesn’t have a severability clause, a common legal phrase that prevents courts from striking down a whole law because one piece has been found to be illegal.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void,” he wrote in his 78-page ruling. “This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”

Since there are several cases working their way through the legal system, with two rulings in favor of the bill and two finding it unconstitutional so far, it seems unlikely this will be resolved until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the bill.

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Why Does New York City Care About Arizona Gun Shows?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 3:45 PM

I'm not really a gun guy. I've shot guns a few times with my father, but I don't own one, I probably never will, and I'm generally disturbed by the rollback of Arizona laws restricting guns in public places. Still, I'd really rather New York City stay out of our business here in Arizona, even if they're working toward a goal I might agree with.

Continue reading »

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Today in Snorting Weird Legal Chemicals and Slashing Your Face With a Skinning Knife

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The latest development in legal drugs popping up across the country is the emergence of so-called “bath salts,” which have already been blamed for several gruesome incidents. From The Huffington Post:

FULTON, Miss. — When Neil Brown got high on dangerous chemicals sold as bath salts, he took his skinning knife and slit his face and stomach repeatedly. Brown survived, but authorities say others haven't been so lucky after snorting, injecting or smoking powders with such innocuous-sounding names as Ivory Wave, Red Dove and Vanilla Sky.

Some say the effects of the powders are as powerful as abusing methamphetamine. Increasingly, law enforcement agents and poison control centers say the advertised bath salts with complex chemical names are an emerging menace in several U.S. states where authorities talk of banning their sale.

The Phoenix New Times also ran a story about bath salts a few weeks back:


The hottest new drug on the streets is perfectly legal — and totally dangerous, according to everyone from the DEA to local toxicology experts.

Sold on the Internet and at head shops under names such as Ivory Wave, Cloud 9, Vanilla Sky, and White Lightning, "bath salts" sound so sweet and innocent. But the alleged potent effects of these particular bath salts don't come from dumping them in the tub for a relaxing soak. The packets contain small amounts of white crystalline powder, and they're labeled with warnings like "novelty only" and "not for human consumption."

But there have been more than a hundred reports nationwide of people smoking, snorting, eating, or injecting the bath salts — with ill effects ranging from paranoia to seizures. Doing so is said to produce effects similar to highs from ecstasy (heightening of the senses, sexual arousal) and stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine (euphoria and increased energy).

Read the whole thing here.

Update: Zimmerman Donations Continue to Climb; Food Bank Contributions Top Six Figures

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Less than three weeks after being founded, the Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Fund has reached $25,000 in donations, says Sara Wright of Child and Family Resources in Tucson.

The organization started the memorial fund at the request of Zimmerman's family on Jan. 13, five days after the Safeway shooting in which Zimmerman lost his life. While working with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Zimmerman also served on the board for Child and Family Resources, Wright says.

Meanwhile, donations have pushed the Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship Fund at the University of California, Santa Cruz, over the $30,000 mark, up from last week's amount of $20,000, says Jonathan Klein, a UC Santa Cruz alum and co-creator of the fund.

The fund needs to reach $50,000 for endowment at UC Santa Cruz, Zimmerman's alma mater.

"We're getting there," Klein says. "I'm very hopeful we'll make it."

The Tucson Community Food Bank has raised $125,000 in donations made in Giffords' name, up from $92,000 last week, while the Southern Arizona chapter of the American Red Cross has collected $72,000, up from $50,000.

To donate to one of these groups or other charities, contact the following:

Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Fund
Child and Family Resources
2800 E. Broadway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85716
To donate, contact Development Director Colleen Bagnall at (520) 321-3778 or go online to donationsforgabe@cfraz.org.

Continue reading »

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Four Injured in Pima County Sheriff's Department Helicopter Crash

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 1:02 PM

pimaHelioHelicopterSml.jpg
  • Pima County S.O. fixed wing and MD530F helicopter from policehelicopterpilot.com.

According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department, a department helicopter crashed this morning at 11:30 a.m. near Waterman Road and Silverbell Road. There are four reported injuries.

The Range is following the story and has a call in to Deputy Jason S. Ogan, the Pima County Sheriff's Department's public information officer.

According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department website, the department's Air Support Unit has "two transport, fixed-winged aircraft (a Cessna 210 and a Cessna 310), and two HT-420 patrol/surveillance airplanes, as well as one MD530FF helicopter."

The MD530FF helicopter is the one involved in the crash. The Air Unit employs "six pilots, several tactical flight deputies, three mechanics and one pilot sergeant. The pilots have more than 60 years and 34,000 hours of flying experience."

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